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MAY 31, 1848, 





Philanthropic Hall, August 8lh, 1S48. 

The undersigned have the honor to express to yon, in behalf of tlie Philan- 
thropic Society, their grateful thanks for your very interesting and eloquent 
Address, delivered before the two Literary Societies of the University on the 
day preceding the Annual Commencement, and earnestly request a copy for 

With great respect, 
>, Your obedient servants, 

T. M. Arrington, i 
J. DE B. Mallett, > Committee. 
C. R. Thomas, ) 
William Eaton, Jr , Esq. 

Warrento7i, August l2lh, 1848. 

I have received your note of the 8th instant, requesting for publication a 
copy of the Address delivered by myself on the day preceding the last Annual 
Commencement at Chapel Hill. While I am conscious that the Society by 
which you have been appointed a committee to make this request has too 
favorably estimated the Address, I have still felt it my duty to comply vi'ith 
established usage upon occasions of the kind. Permit me to return to the 
Philanthropic Society, through you as its committee, my grateful thanks for this 
mark of its favorable opinion ; and accept, yourselves, my acknowledgments 
for the courteous terms in which you have been pleased to communicate its 

With great esteem. 

Your friend and fellow member, 

Wm. Eaton, Jr. 
Messrs. T. M. Arrington, ^ 

J. DE B. Mallett, > Committee, c^-c. 
C. R. Thomas, ) 


Gentlemen of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies — 

In appearing before you on this deeply interesting occasion, 
1 am sensible of my inability to discharge the duty assigned 
me, with those captivating graces of oratory which have dis- 
tinguished the efforts of my predecessors. I have been in- 
duced, however, to accept the invitation with which I have 
been honored, from a sincere desire to gratify the wishes of 
that esteemed Literary Society M'hich has made me its repre- 
sentative here, however humble the tribute which I may be 
able to bring to this temple of learning. The topic to which 
your attention is solicited for a few moments, is the literary 
prospects of our beloved country. Foreign criticism has often 
observed that our literature does not admit of comparison with 
that of the most enlightened nations of Europe, in the number, 
variety, and excellence of its productions. We are not so far 
blinded by national prejudice or vanity as to deny the truth of 
the remark, but there is certainly no inferiority of intellect on 
the part of our countrymen. It would have been a subject 
which might well excite surprise, if America, under existing 
circumstances, could have aspired to a literary rivalship with 
Great Britain or France, or could have risen to commanding 
eminence in science or letters. If we were to ask one of our 
transatlantic kindred, who were the brightest ornaments of the 
literature of his country, he would point to Shakspeare, to Mil- 
ton, and to the brilliant constellation of geniuses that adorned 

the literary firmament of Great Britain during the reign of 
Queen Anne. Coming down to a more recent period, he 
would probably mention, with proud satisfaction, the illustrious 
names of Johnson, Burke, and many others who flourished 
about the time of the American Revolution. When Shak- 
speare and Milton wrote their immortal productions, our coun- 
try was almost entirely in the possession of beasts of prey and 
Indian tribes. During the reign of Anne, which has been re- 
garded as the Augustan age of British learning, we had only 
three colleges, very poorly endowed, and exceedingly deficient 
in all the means of instruction, and scarcely a single press on 
this side of the Ocean. A few spots of imperfect cultiva- 
tion might be seen on the Atlantic coast, but the axe and the 
ploughshare had never asserted their dominion among the 
stately forests of the interior. Our country was still an almost 
unbroken wilderness. Her noblest rivers were only skimmed 
by the frail bark of the savage, and her lakes and inland seas 
were sleeping "in the primeval silence of nature." Even at 
the commencement of the Revolution our population was some- 
what less than three millions. That population was scattered 
over an extended tract of territor}^ was struggling with the 
difliculties incident to the recent settlement of the country, 
and was very imperfectly supplied with the means of intellec- 
tual improvement. A people so situated could not be expected 
to explore the depths of science or to gather the garlands of 
the Muses. The diligent and successful cultivation of polite 
literature was still more impracticable during the mighty tem- 
pest of the Revolution itself. One species of literature might 
have been expected from the struggle for independence : elo- 
quence of a high order ; and such was displayed in our deli- 
berative assemblies and in the political publications of that day. 
Henry's bold and commanding oratory would have reflected 
no discredit upon the ancient republics. The memorials and 
other state papers of the period under review, were honored 
by the high eulogy of Chatham and Burke. They have been 
justly admired for force of argument, chaste, manly, and dig- 
nified eloquence; and fervid patriotism. They contain rich 
treasures of political wisdom, and noble lessons of civil liberty. 

After tlie dark and troubled night of the Revolution had passed 
away, the attention of our gifted men was for many years de- 
voted almost entirely to the improvement of our infant insti- 
tutions, and to the service of our country in legislative, execu- 
tive, and judicial stations, during the critical and trying season 
of her early independence. She needed the ellorts of her 
ablest sons, for the peace of 1783 found her exhausted by the 
havoc and desolation of a seven years' v/ar ; overwhelmed by 
debt both private and public, and with an inadequate reve- 
nue, a crippled commerce, a deranged currency, and an ex- 
ceedingly defective system of government. The writings of 
our eminent statesmen during this era of our history are highly 
distinguished for vigor of thought, profound knowledge of the 
subjects discussed, and excellence of composition, and prove 
beyond all doubt that their authors might have enriched and 
embellished the literature of the age by the productions of their 
genius, if patriotism and duty had not summoned them to other 
fields of fame. The pen of Jefferson, jMadison, Hamilton, or 
Ames, might, under different circumstances, have produced 
historical performances, to compare favorably with the labors 
of Gibbon, Robertson, or Hume. During every stage of our 
existence as a people, most of our able men have been lured 
from the paths of letters to the theatre of public or profes- 
sional life. It is believed, however, that literary pursuits will 
be m(9re favorably appreciated when our rapidly growing 
country shall afford a fairer field to the scholar and brighter 
rewards to works of merit. 

An opinion has prevailed among many foreigners, and has 
been adopted by some enlightened and patriotic citizens of our 
own country, that the United States will never become emi- 
nent as regards literary fame. We propose very briefly to 
review some of the more prominent reasons which have been 
advanced by persons of talents and information in support of 
this opinion, which is so well calculated to wound our national 

It has been frequently observed that America furnishes no 
materials for poetry and romance. Our origin is of such re- 
cent date when compared with that of other nations equally 


powerful, that our history has less variety of incident, and has 
been less obscured by the mists of fable and tradition, than 
that of many nations of the old world ; and for these reasons 
it may be as yet somewhat less susceptible of the embellish- 
ments of fancy and fiction, than it would have been under 
other circumstances, and will be hereafter. But the story of 
the past is by no means dull and spiritless. American history, 
from the time when the fleet of Columbus first spread its can- 
vass to the breeze on the coast of Spain until the achievement 
of our national independence, will be read with a deep and 
lively interest on both sides of the Atlantic. Our country dur- 
ing this period exhibited scenes, incidents, and characters, en- 
tirely novel and peculiar, and opened a wide and various field 
for real and for fictitious narrative. The manners, habits, and 
customs of that extraordinary and ill-fated race, the abori- 
gines of America ; the character of the colonists themselves, 
those adventurous pioneers in the mighty wilderness of the 
West ; the deadly conflicts between the Indian tribes and the 
European emigrants ; the devastating war between the crowns 
of Great Britain and France for supremacy in North America, 
which terminated in the surrender of Canada by the latter 
power, particularly the defeat of Braddock, the tragedy of Fort 
William Henry, and the siege of Quebec ; and above all, the 
heroic achievements of the Revolutionary contest, present 
" mines of literary treasure," themes for the " spirit-stirring 
song and the chivalrous story." Surely works of imagination 
might be wrought by a man of genius out of materials like 
these. We need not look to Europe for all of the subjects of 
poetical or prose fiction, rich as she is in historical reminis- 
cences and in legendary tales. Fields of fancy, brightened 
with verdure and fragrant with flowers, may be found on this 
side of the broad Atlantic. Cooper, by the exciting incidents 
and the glowing descriptions of the beauties of nature to be 
found in his American novels, has proved that a writer of ro- 
mance will hazard nothing by laying the scene of his story in 
these bright regions of the West. The wild and picturesque 
scenery of America, unequalled by that of Europe in extended 
and lofty ranges of mountains, majestic streams and noble catar- 


acts, the thrilling events of our early and indeed oiir recent his 
tory, and the striking features of the American character, will 
afford various and abundant materials for national literature. 
Nor will American authors be restricted to the scenes, events, 
or characters of their native land, although most of them would 
be apt to prefer topics which awaken a peculiar and local in- 
terest at home. British genius has not confined its ilights to 
the shores of Albion. Addison sung the charms of immortal 
Italy. Byron, when a young man, resided in Greece, and it 
has been truly observed by Macaulay, that much of his most 
splendid and most popular poetry was inspired by its scenery 
and its history. Campbell did not regard America as unworthy 
of song, and places the scene of one of his sweetest poems 
upon the verdant and beautiful banks of the Susquehanna. 
The author of Waverley, the prince of modern novelists, has 
not only rendered Scotland classic soil, and erected enduring 
trophies in England, but he has gathered green wreaths of 
fame from the " vine-clad hills'' of France, from the mountains 
of Switzerland, and from the valley of the Rhine. He has 
even passed beyond the limits of Europe, and rendered the 
holy land itself tributary to his renown. Other instances might 
be mentioned of British writers who have signalized their tal- 
ents on foreign ground, and among them Shakspeare himselfj 
many of whose best plays have been wrought out of foreign 
materials, and the elegant historians Robertson and Gibbon. 

The language which we speak, our national descent, and 
our commercial relations with Great Britain, have been alleged 
to be unfavorable to originality in the productions of genius, 
and it has been apprehended that our American writers will 
occupy the position of mere imitators, who will only shine in 
borrowed jewels from abroad. It ought not to be a subject of 
regret in any point of view that we speak the language of 
Addison and Pope, and enjoy the benefits and blessings of a 
liberal and enriching commerce with the most enlightened na- 
tion of the old world. The United States ought to be entirely 
and perfectly independent of Great Britain, so far as foreign 
influence in matters of government and political power are 
concerned, as she undoubtedly is ; but national independence 


and a just national pride do not forbid our people from admiring 
the truths of her philosophy, the eloquence of her orators, or 
the beauty of her bards. It is fortunate for our countrymen 
that they have an opportunity to drink deeply at the pure, re- 
freshing, and invigorating fountains of British learning, wis- 
dom, and genius. Our mother tongue has been adorned by 
many of the noblest productions of the human mind in almost 
every department of composition, and with American readers 
their beauties are not dimmed by translation or by an imper- 
fect knowledge of the language of the original. The litera- 
ture of Great Britain places before young America high stand- 
ards of excellence both in prose and poetry, and it is calculated 
to engender feelings of noble emulation. That literature has 
exercised an elevating influence upon the mind, the morals, and 
the taste of the British nation. Its influences and effects have 
been and will be equally auspicious and favorable within our 
own precincts. Surely nothing which improves the intellect, 
refines the taste, and elevates and purifies the moral feelings 
and sentiments of a people, can be really detrimental to the 
interests of their native literature. If there be much of force 
in the argument which we have endeavored to meet, Britons 
themselves, as well as Americans, must hereafter be imitators ; 
the career of every nation which has already become re- 
nowned in letters must be a downward career, and the best 
libraries will be unfavorable to future excellence in the produc- 
tions of the mind. We may have some writers whose works 
will be cold and imitative, and who may draw rather too freely 
upon the mental treasures of England, but we trust that their 
feeble efforts will not be considered to be fair specimens of 
American literature. A man of a high order of talents will 
profit by the labors of others, but, proudly conscious of his 
native strength, he will not become the mere copyist of any 
author, however illustrious. Some of our recent productions 
have exhibited that superiority of intellect which proves, if any 
evidence were necessary, that American genius can safely rely 
upon its own powers, without descending to the task of servile 
imitation. Whence did Irving borrow that inimitable elegance 
which renders his lighter productions as well as his more labored 

performances the delight of every reader? Whom did Ban- 
croft imitate in the bold sketches of his vivid pencil, and his 
eloquent and animated narrative ? After what model did Pres- 
cott fashion in the formation of his simple, yet dignified, easy, 
and beautitul style ? These three wa'iters have passed trium- 
phantly through the ordeal of European criticism. Irving's 
Life of Columbus, Bancroft's History of the United States, 
and all of the histories written by Prescott, stand among the 
very best historical performances of the present age ; and they 
certainly display those striking peculiarities of style and senti- 
ment which are so apt to mark the otfspring of true genius. 
While we have spoken in favorable terms of the general effects 
of British literature in the United States, we are well aware 
that there are some of its influences against which American 
readers ought to be on their guard. The partialities of British 
writers towards their own institutions render them unsafe 
guides to us in matters relating to political science, and some 
of their most admired historical writings have not been distin- 
guished for justice and candor. It must be admitted, too, that 
the British press, now prolific beyond all former example, is 
constantly throwing off numerous works of fiction, many of 
which are entirely worthless, and others evidently calculated 
to enervate the mind, vitiate the taste, and deprave the moral 
principles. You should never abandon the standard literature 
of Great Britain for these frivolous and mischievous produc- 
tions. You will find the sublime song of Milton, the charming 
melody of Pope, the classic purity of Addison, the chaste 
beauties of Goldsmith, the rich treasures of the moral wisdom 
of Johnson, and the pure, instructive and fascinating stories of 
Scott, much more worthy of your attention than the last novels 
and romances which are now flooding our country. 

Among other causes supposed to be unfavorable to the 
growth of letters in America, it has been said that we have no 
great capital like England or France. We certainly have no 
London or Paris on this side of the Atlantic, and in this respect 
we labor under some disadvantages, especially as regards the 
elegant arts and several branches of science and philosophy ; 
but it is not admitted that these disadvantages are as great as 


some have alleged. New York, the great and growing metro- 
polis of the Western World, has at this time more inhabitants 
than Vienna, and is probably surpassed by no city in England 
except London, in population, wealth, commerce, and magnifi- 
cence, rhiladelphia is very nearly as populous as Glasgow or 
Dublin, more so than any city in Spain, or indeed any in 
France with the exception of Paris itself So far as the influ- 
ence of large cities is concerned in promoting the advance- 
ment of the arts and of letters, our difficulties must diminish 
with the lapse of time. Our rapidly increasing trade, and our 
unrivalled facilities of internal communication both by land 
and water, must exert the most auspicious effect upon the cities 
of the United States. These cities must greatly advance in 
population and wealth, as well as in intelligence, refinement 
and taste. Our country may not for generations behold any 
thing within her limits equal to some of the ancient and proud 
capitals of the Eastern Hemisphere ; but she certainly will 
have many cities sufficiently large, populous and wealthy to 
become nurseries of the fine arts, to aflbrd to men of science 
an opportunity to prosecute their researches to advantage, and 
to stimulate and reward literary talent. Before the expiration 
of any considerable period of time the United States must 
have many cities as populous as Edinburgh, the great focus of 
Scotch taste, science and learning, and a place almost as famous 
in letters as London itself The literary institutions of Ger- 
many have acquired a high and enviable reputation, and have 
surpassed those of England and France in a profound and ac- 
curate knowledge of the ancient classics. That country has 
been called the land of scholars. In relation to the opportuni- 
ties of improvement afforded by large towns, Germany has 
now no great advantage over the United States, and in a few 
years will have no advantage at all. In some respects large 
cities were more essential to literature in ancient than in 
modern times. Among the Greeks and Romans books were 
rare and not easy to be procured. Copies were multiplied 
slowly and with great difficulty. Valuable libraries were rarely 
to be found except in places of considerable importance. 
Much of the information of those days was communicated 


orally, and was never placed in a permanent and endurina; 
form. These are some of the reasons why the learned among 
the ancients were so much in the habit of resorting to impe- 
rial Rome and classic Athens to prosecute their studies and to 
enlarge their knowledge. But the art of printing, in its present 
high state of improvement, and the steam engine, have con- 
tributed greatly to the diffusion of letters. Literature in 
modern times finds its way not only into the splendid capital 
and the crowded mart, but also into the inland village, and 
€ven among the silent shades of rural retirement. 

It has been said that a stronger national government would 
have been favorable to the culture of letters. From this opin- 
ion we entirely dissent. Ancient Greece has been called " a 
cluster of little republics," and her literary excellence has been 
attributed in a considerable degree to the noble emulation 
which fired the bosoms of her distinguished men. There were 
certainly feebler ties of connection among the Grecian States 
before they wore the chains of Macedonia, than there are 
among the members of the American Union. The Confede- 
racy of Grecian Republics, associated together under the Am- 
phyctionic Council, the most intimate political relationship that 
ever existed between them in the days of their freedom and 
glory, has been very properly compared by the author of the 
*Federalist to the old Confederation of the American States. 
The federal features of our beautiful system are highly favora- 
ble to virtue, liberty and happiness, and they will exert no un- 
propitious influence upon the intellect of America. The inter- 
ests of virtue, liberty and letters are entirely inseparable, as 
they always have been in every age and in every region of the 
world. Emulation among neighboring States will here become 
an incentive to exertion and the parent of excellence, as it cer- 
tainly was in the ancient cradle of the arts. During the bloody 
battles of our recent war, the regiments of the different States 
felt the inspiring influence of a generous and manly rivalship. 
In the victories of peace, more mild but not less glorious than 
the triumphs of the field, in the rapid improvement of our 

* Federalist, page 79. 


country, and in costly and liberal provisions for the education! 
of the poor, the same auspicious influences of State competi- 
tion have been felt among the various members of our happy 
Union. Similar feelings and sentiments vv^ill exert a salutary 
effect upon American science and literature. If the States of 
our Confederacy were melted down into one common mass, if 
the lines which mark their limits were blotted from the map al- 
together, or were regarded as of no more importance than mere 
county boundaries, so that the traveller would scarcely pause 
to inquire when he left the Empire State and when he passed 
into Pennsylvania, the scholar would have as little reason as the 
statesman to rejoice over the ruins of our temple of freedom. 
The monarchists of the old world have remarked that our 
i^epublican institutions will never afford that patronage to 
learning which is requisite to its successful cultivation. The 
American author cannot expect to enjoy the smiles of court 
favor, or to bask in the sunbeams of princely patronage. He 
must rely upon his own merit and the public intelligence. No 
munificent pension can be expected as the meed of literary 
excellence, however shining and distinguished. The national 
government has no power upon the subject of literature, but 
simply to grant copyrights, and if the State governments have 
the power to patronize works of genius by generous pecuniary 
donations, it is a power which they will probably never exer- 
cise. Indeed, we do not regard such patronage as being with- 
in the sphere of a wise and judicious policy. The American 
States ought always to secure to their people the very best sys- 
tems of popular instruction, and also to provide for their youth 
seminaries of learning of the first class, where a complete, 
thorough and finished education may be acquired. Many of 
the States have already manifested a wise and enlightened lib- 
erality upon this subject, and others will probably emulate 
their bright example. But the reading public is the proper 
tribunal to decide upon the merits of a poem, a history, or any 
other literary performance, and to consign its author to the 
shades of oblivion, or to bestow upon him the appropriate re- 
wards of fame and profit. Public patronage will be dispensed 
with more justice and impartiality, and more sagacity and dis- 


■crimination, than that of princes or rulers of any kind. What 
mighty resuhs has patronage from government to illustrious 
writers accomplished for the cause of literature in ancient or 
modern times ? The land of Homer and Sophocles was but 
little indebted to such aid for the admirable productions of its 
intellect. The author of the Iliad is not much known to the 
moderns except through the medium of his poetry. It is be- 
lieved, however, that he was both poor and blind. The re- 
wards which were sometimes bestowed in Greece upon happy 
efforts of genius in composition, by public authority, were 
merely honorary, such for instance as a crown or a garland to 
the author of the best comedy or tragedy. The entertain- 
ments of the stage were a source of serious expense to the 
Athenians, but this expense was incurred in extraordinary 
theatrical pomp and decoration and exquisite music, and not 
in any pecuniary compensation from the treasury to the wri- 
ters of the best dramatic performances. Pericles had more 
just claims to the character of a patron of genius than any 
statesman of his country. When at the height of his power 
and his fame, he embellished the city of Athens with costly, 
elegant and durable buildings, and with splendid specimens of 
painting and sculpture, but we are not informed that he be- 
stowed any considerable encouragement upon that noble litei'- 
ature which has survived her finest architecture, and which 
still flourishes in unfading beauty when 

" the palo ivy's clasping wreaths o'ershade 
The ruined temple's moss-elad colonnade." 

The classic land ov/es much more to liberty than to patronage, 
so far as its renown in letters is concerned. 

It may be doubted whether the literary fame of ancient 
Rome was very materially advanced by the smiles of power. 
The patronage of Caesar Augustus and his favorite Maecenas 
has been greatly extolled, but even that in some respects ex- 
ercised an influence unfavorable to Roman literature. It cer- 
tainly caused Virgil and Horace to degrade their noble genius- 
es by the niost extravagant adulation of the Roman Emperor. 


How far the Imperial Augustus was a proper subject for high- 
wrought and glowing panegyric, we can best discern, when 
we remember that he was nothing more than a successful 
usurper, and that in order to purchase power he bartered away 
the life of the great statesman, patriot and orator, who, " after 
having baffled the conspiracy of Catiline, enabled Rome to 
contend with Athens for the palm of eloquence." The ora- 
tions of Cicero, which many have regarded as the purest and 
brightest gems of Italy, were the proud offspring of the repub- 
lic. The voice of eloquence was hushed on the banks of the 
Tiber, as it had been previously in Greece, after the downfall 
of freedom. The poets who flourished during the Augustan 
age, and who have given such splendor and eclat to that 
epoch, would probably have composed their excellent works if 
Rome had retained her popular institutions, and they might 
have manifested a spirit more worthy of the countrymen of 

The literature of Great Britain is indebted for its brilliant 
success, not to the smiles of kings or the favor of ministers, 
but to its own intrinsic excellence, and to the taste, intelli- 
gence and liberality of the nation itself The great fathers of 
British literature were honored by no munificence from the 
throne. Shakspeare went down to the grave unrewarded, 
and the author of Paradise Lost spent the sad evening of his 
blind and venerable old age in poverty and neglect. Butler 
and Dryden, as we are informed by Hume, lived and died in 
want. During subsequent periods in the English annals, how 
often do we find genius neglected by the great, but cherished 
and fostered by the public, and flourishing under the genial 
rays of its favor. In the long list of sovereigns who have 
swayed the sceptre of proud Albion, how many are there wha 
stand O'n the page of impartial history as liberal patrons of 
literature ? Royal bount3^ even when bestowed at all, has 
rarely cheered an author of merit in his early struggles with 
adversity and indigence, and pensions from the crown have 
been generally withheld until the individual has to a consid- 
erable extent established his fortune and his fame by his own 
exertions. The most ample, the most seasonable, and in every 


respect the best encouragement, which has ever been extended 
in Enghind to productions of genius and taste, has been that 
of the booksellers and the public at large. This kind of pat- 
ronage exerts a more salutary influence than that of govern- 
ment, or even that of illustrious and powerful individuals, and 
contributes much more to advance the dignity and happiness 
of a literary life. If a necessity ever existed for government 
])atronage in Great Britain, the number of readers is now so 
large that it certainly exists no longer. In the language of 
the poet, 

" Pensions bestowed where no Apollo fires 
Are vain, — superfluous if his breath inspires." 

An author of talents and reputation may nov/ live in Eng- 
land independently and comfortably upon the productions of 
his pen. Many have acquired competency, and some afflu- 
ence, by the profits of their works. A man of letters is now 
relieved from degrading dependence, and need not violate his 
feelings of self-respect or sink his personal pride, by obsequi- 
ously soliciting the countenance and support of some powerful 
patron. He is not expected to court the favor of the great by 
flattery, as too many once did, but to merit the approbation 
of the public by literary excellence. Government patronage 
is certainly unfavorable to literary independence, and to the 
accuracy and impartiality of history. 

None of the reasons which have been mentioned as ob- 
stacles to the intellectual advancement of America appear to 
us to be sufficient to prevent the United States from hereafter 
rising to distinction and eminence in letters. Our nation as 
regards age is still in its infancy. It has been only sixty-five 
years since our independence was recognized by the parent 
country, and but little more than two centuries since the com- 
mencement of our national existence. Many of the causes 
which have heretofore retarded the growth of American lite- 
rature are destined to be of temporary duration, and its pros- 
pects must improve and brighten as our country advances 
in her rapid career. Her past progress in population, re- 

sources and power, resembles the visions of romance more 
than the realities of history. When American independence 
was acknowledged it was scarcely imagined that our territo- 
rial limits would ever extend beyond the Mississippi, nor 
was it very probable that the United States would ever ac- 
quire the control over that great channel of communication ; 
but the " ocean stream," compared with which the Thames, 
"the river of the ten thousand masts," dwindles into a rivu- 
let, now rolls on in its gi'andeur through the heart of our coun- 
try. Our national domain is washed by the billows of the 
Atlantic and the Pacific. It is indeed a noble country, with 
its fertile soil and genial skies, its almost interminable line of 
coast, abounding in the best harbors, its long, deep and navi- 
gable rivers, and its broad and beautiful lakes. It is a widely 
extended, lovely and fruitful land, capable of sustaining in com- 
fort an immense number of inhabitants, and of supplying the 
wants of Europe from its overflowing abundance. The pop- 
ulation of the United States, which during the year 1790 
amounted to something less than four millions, may now be 
estimated at twenty-two millions, an increase unparalleled in 
the history of mankind ; and in the course of another half cen- 
tury, no long period in the life of a nation, it will in all human 
probability exceed one hundred millions of souls. The popu- 
lation of this country must at some future time amount to sev- 
eral hundred millions. Our people are, in general, distinguished 
for intelligence ; and in perseverance, energy and enterprise, 
they are nowhere surpassed. What may not be expected 
from such a country, and such a population, and from the vivi- 
fying influence of American freedom ? Our literary and sci- 
entific institutions, many of them already of high standing and 
extensive usefulness, must greatly improve with the growing 
fortunes of our country. They must be more liberally patron- 
ized, and must shed around them a brighter radiance and a 
more cheering light. The number of intelligent, well educated 
and reading men in the United States must be immensely in- 
creased, and the rewards of literary merit will be proportionably 
augmented. The American author, through the medium of 
his writings, will address a large and noble audience of his 


own countrymen, he will address them in their mother tongue, 
and not unfrequently upon topics of the deepest national inter- 
est. He will have as strong incentives to animate him in 
the pursuit of glory, and to call into action his highest powers, 
as have ever been presented to the ambition of any writer 
in ancient or modern times, and as brilliant rewards will 
crown his success. The spontaneous patronage of the public, 
which we trust we have shown to be the best kind of literary 
patronage, but which during the greater part of our history 
has been entirely inadequate, owing to our sparse population 
and other causes, will in progress of time become liberal and 
munificent. And when the American author shall have 
reached the high distinction to which he has aspired, his 
works wall commend themselves to the attention of Europe. 
The eastern sky is now dawning, with radiant light, and the 
march of freedom and reform on the other side of the Atlantic 
has been rapid and unparalleled. Recent revolutions will be 
favorable even to the literary prospects of America. The 
model republic is constantly gaining more and more the at- 
tention and respect of mankind as their institutions improve, 
and as she herself advances onward in the fulfillment of her 
high destinies. The old world must contemplate with a deep 
and increasing interest every thing which relates to her 
history, her institutions, and her literature. American writ- 
ings are beginning to be more highly esteemed abroad. Some 
of our very recent productions have been already translated 
into the French, German, Italian, and Spanish languages. Our 
national writers, with such advantages, such incentives, and 
such prospects, cannot be doomed to inferiority to those of 
Europe. American intellect is certainly equal to that of the 
Eastern World, as has been triumphantly proved by our splen- 
did success in war, statesmanship, jurisprudence, and the me- 
chanic arts, and by forensic and senatorial eloquence of the 
highest merit. Heretofore political and professional pursuits, 
and other employments of active life, have drawn into their 
vortex the best talents of America. But as other paths of 
fame become more and more thronged, and the rewards and 
honors of authorship increase, as they certainly must in a very 



high degree, the national mind will take a more literary direc- 
tion, and the dignified pursuits of letters will be more justly ap- 
preciated. The high degree of civil liberty enjoyed by the 
people of the United States will be eminently favorable to the 
full development of their intellectual energies. Liberty has 
every where been the friend of genius. Flowers of fancy may 
be more easily culled on American soil when our country 
o-rows older, and richer in romantic association. Time will 
lend an attractive interest to the events of our past history, 
and render them more fruitful and inspiring themes for our 
native muses. The national pride of our countrymen will 
cause them to bestow a liberal encouragement upon our own 
works of merit. The people of the United States are justly 
sensitive to the attacks of European criticism upon our na- 
tional literature, and they must be anxious to elevate the fame 
of America. No enlightened patriot can feel indifferent upon 
this subject. A home literature such as America ought here- 
after to produce would purify our national taste, elevate the 
sentiments of our people, and brighten the golden links that 
bind the patriot to the land of his birth. It would exalt the 
reputation of our country abroad, and with posterity, more 
than the most heroic achievements of the crimsoned field. 
How little should we have known of the most renowned 
states of antiquity but for the immortal productions of their 
orators, their historians, and their poets. These imperishable 
memorials of ancient genius and glory are destined to instruct 
and delight the most distant generations. Centuries as they 
have rolled away, crumbling beneath them the monuments of 
art and the proud trophies of arms, have only contributed to 
establish and elevate the fame of the great writers of antiquity. 
The Greek and Roman classics have been studied and admir- 
ed in every age and in every land where mankind have been 
able to appreciate the grand and beautiful in composition. To 
suppose a time in the history of the world when these finished 
models of taste shall be forgotten, would be to anticipate the 
arrival of a period compared with which the sombre gloom of 
;the dark ages would be a golden flood of light. 


Gentlemen of the Graduating Class — 

You have now completed your collegiate education, and 
you are about to commence your career upon the active drama 
of life. I have been placed in the same position which you 
now occupy, and know well how to appreciate the feelings 
which animate your hearts. You have looked forward to the 
interesting occasion which was to relieve you from the re- 
straints of college life, and allow to you the absolute disposal of 
your time, with high and exciting hopes. It has often been the 
subject of your youthful day-dreams and of the bright visions 
of your fancy. It has often been the favorite topic of your 
social hours. You have fondly looked forward to the present 
annual Commencement as a period of unmingled joy without 
one cloud of care. The occasion certainly brings along with 
it high gratifications, interesting reminiscences of the past, and 
cheering hopes of future felicity. Future life, unseen except 
by the imagination, and entirely untried, now brightens before 
you in all its richest charms. The prospect must be an agree- 
able one of a speedy meeting with dear friends and affection- 
ate kindred, and of revisiting the parental hearth and the home 
of your infancy, that asylum which has been rendered sacred 
by the best and purest feelings of the heart. But the fairest 
scenes of earthly felicity are sometimes tinged with shades of 
sadness. When you bid adieu to your esteemed and respected 
preceptors, who have guided your footsteps in the paths of 
virtue, science and learning, whose duties may sometimes have 
required them to oppose your inclinations, but who always 
consulted your good, and whose labors will ever be remem- 
bered with affectionate gratitude ; — when you bid a long, per- 
haps an eternal farewell to your friends and fellow-students. 
the beloved and cherished companions of your youth, who 
have prosecuted the same improving studies and shared the 
same delightful amusements, who have heightened all your 
joys and softened your sorrows, and whose bosoms have been 
warmed by sympathies entirely congenial to your own ; — 
when you take your leave of this venerable seat of learning, 
and the shades of its beautiful and classic grove, endeared by 


memory's richest treasures and by a thousand associations of 
the past, scenes among which you have whiled away so many 
pleasant, so many happy hours, and have spent so much of the 
" dewy morning of hfe," — you will find your sensibilities awak- 
ened, and feelings at once tender and pensive springing up in 
your breasts. Wherever you may go, or whatever may be 
your destiny, fond recollection will linger among these cher- 
ished objects. Amid the pleasures and pursuits of subsequent 
life, its calamities and its cares, you will turn with unalienated 
aflection to this lovely and sequestered spot, whei^e 

" The hills and flowers and streams 
Are woven o'er with golden dreams." 

Fancy will often bring before you the familiar faces of your 
early friends and companions. Happy, thrice happy will you 
be, if you shall find among the associates of your manhood the 
purity, tenderness, and fervor of your juvenile frendships. 

My return to this hallowed spot of my youthful studies and 
enjoyments has been a source of high though not unalloyed 
satisfaction. Some sad recollections shade the bright picture 
which memory presents. More than one-fourth of the class 
with which I graduated, now sleep beneath the sod of the val- 
ley, and that venerable apostle of science from whose hands 
we received our diplomas, has since gmie down to the tomb. 
The early grave of blooming and promising youth suddenly cut 
down by the scythe of death, must ever excite the most tender 
and melancholy sensations ; but the friends of the departed fa- 
ther of this University need not sorrow over the monument 
which covers his remains. 

" Weep not for him, who closed with placid ray 
The tranquil evening of a well-spent day. 
And, all life's lienors earned, its duties done, 
Sank in full radiance, like a cloudless sun." 

The studehts of this institution have frequently been ad- 
dressed upon occasions like the present by gentlemen of ta- 
lents and of high distinction, from whose lips you have heard 
the precepts of virtue and the lessons of wisdom recommended 


by all tlie charms of eloquence. No admonitions of mine can 
merit the same serious consideration, or be calculated to pro- 
duce an impression equally strong and vivid. My solicitude, 
however, for your future welfare, must excuse a few sugges- 
tions, which, if duly remembered in after life, may not be 
entirely destitute of some good effect, Few, very few are 
the persons in North Carolina who have been blessed with the 
superior opportunities of intellectual improvement which you 
have enjoyed, at least when we look at her entire population. 
The well-educated youths of the State ought to be impressed 
with a high sense of the importance and responsibility of their 
position in society. North Carolina must rely upon her most 
enlightened sons to sustain her reputation abroad, and ad- 
vance her best and dearest interests at home. They should 
not be insensible to the suggestions of patriotism and a becom- 
ing State pride, nor disregard the wishes of that honored mo- 
ther. She has a right to expect most from those who have 
enjoyed the best opportunities of mental improvement, and 
who are most able to render her brilliant and useful service. 
Those of you who reside beyond the borders of North Caro- 
lina, and it affords me pleasure to be able to say that every gra- 
duating class contains young men from a distance, wall doubt- 
less feel under obligations equally strong and imperative to- 
wards your native States. 

Be not hasty, however, to embark in political pursuits. A 
premature commencement of public life is certainly unfriendly 
to the prosecution of literary and professional studies, and is 
sometimes fraught with perilous consequences to the morals of 
our young men. Let the ambitious youth have a little patience. 
He should be content to remain in the shade of retirement for 
a few years, in order that his talents and acquirements may 
shine in the legislative councils of his country with a brighter 
lustre and a more genial w-armth. Let him wait until his cha-' 
racter has been formed, his habits of virtue, morality and in- 
dusti-y firmly fixed, his intellect sufficiently cultivated, strength- 
ened and adorned, and his knowledge enlarged. Let him 
check his desire for preferment until he has become thoroughly 
acquainted wath the history, the institutions, and the varied 


interests of his country. He will thus bring into the public 
councils more moral and intellectual strength, and more dignity 
of character, brighter displays of talent, and greater capacities 
for usefulness. He may not rise so speedily in the political 
world, but he will at last gain for himself a more enviable dis- 
tinction, and establish a fairer title to the public gratitude. A 
feverish thirst for political fame in early life has rendered many 
of our leading men mere sciolists in literary and scientific at- 
tainment. When engaged in the service of your country, 
you will find in the characters of many of the departed states- 
men of the republic, as examples for your imitation, the most 
beautiful models of disinterested and devoted patriotism, un- 
bending firmness, and spotless purity, models not surpassed by 
those of antiquity. If you should pursue the noiseless tenor 
of your way among the peaceful shades of domestic retire- 
ment, even in that secluded situation a man of intelligence and 
worth may accomplish much good. He may set an example 
of probity for the imitation of others, impart a healthier tone 
to public sentiment in the circle around him, lend his influence 
to the cause of social order, and purify the moral atmosphere 
of society by the sweet incense of his virtues. 

Probably some of you may devote your time and attention 
to the liberal professions. If so, never rest satisfied with a dull 
mediocrity, but press forward with zeal and energy to distinc- 
tion and eminence. Master the peculiar learning which be- 
longs to the profession which you may select, however forbid- 
ding some of it may appear to minds fresh from the classics. 
Do not, however, bid farewell to the charms of elegant litera- 
ture. Cultivated taste and literary accomplishments will adorn 
and dignify professional skill. and talent, and afford a delightful 
recreation to cheer and enliven the leisure hours of the physi- 
cian or the lawyer. Be not over-sanguine as to speedy suc- 
cess in your efforts to reach the honors and rewards of your 
profession, nor too easily dispirited by those disappointments 
and difliculties which many of the most gifted and eminent men 
have had to encounter in the commencement of their career. 

In every situation of human life, and in every relation of 
society, you should discharge all of your duties with scrupu- 


lous fidelity. Endeavor to form a cliaracter which shall com- 
mand universal respect, and present to the shafts of calumny 
an impenetrable shield. Let high honor, inflexible integrity, 
and ingenuous frankness, distinguish your conduct at all times. 
Abstain from every act as to the moral propriety of which the 
least difference of opinion can be fairly entertained among 
men of understanding and worth. The honor of a gentleman, 
like a soldier's courage, should be very far beyond suspicion. 
Let your morals be pure and unexceptionable. Shun not only 
odious and disreputable vices, but also those which may be 
tolerated by the public sentiment of the neighborhood in which 
you may reside, and which are apt to present more dangerous 
allurements to the young. Practice the virtues of temperance, 
moderation, and strict self-control. Amiability of disposition 
and urbanity in your social intercourse will be equally essen- 
tial to your usefulness in society, and your own happiness. 
Be careful in the selection of your intimate associates, and 
faithful to your friends, particularly in their adversity. Culti- 
vate feelings of generous benevolence towards your fellow 
man of every color and every condition. Sad would be human 
existence if the sorrows of afflicted humanity should find no 
cheering sympathy in the breasts of the intelligent, the edu- 
cated, and the refined. Let all of the influence which you 
may be able to exercise in society, be exerted for purposes 
which are dear to the patriot, the philanthropist, and the Chris- 
tian. In conclusion, my young friends, permit me to express 
my anxious desire for your future welfare and happiness. May 
your ways be " v/ays of pleasantness," and all your paths be 
peace. ^.-^